SAINT BONAVENTURE, NY – The Bellarmine men’s lacrosse team travels to Western New York to face St.
Bellarmine (0-1) will look to bounce back from a 20-12 setback in last week’s season opener at defending national runner-up, No. 2 Duke. ASUN Preseason Player of the Year, senior Kyle Playsteadand sophomore John Ali every hat trick in the competition. Playsted (84 goals) passed Tucker Ciessau (83 goals, 2014-17) as the Knights’ all-time leading scorer, but he will have to fight Benny O’Rourke (79 goals) and Christian Della Rocco (77 goals) the rest of the season for the all-time scoring crown. It was Alie’s first career hat-trick.
The Knights now turn their attention to St. Bonaventure of the Atlantic 10, which was idle in the first week of the season.
“We’ve had some struggles with the Bonnies the last two years,” Bellarmine head coach Andy Whitley said. “We were able to extend our lead in the second half of a tight game last season and came away with a quality win earlier in the year to go forward. I expect the 2024 game to be just as lively.”
Bellarmine enters Sunday 2-1 all-time against SBU. The Knights defeated the Bonnies 14-10 at Frazier Stadium on February 11, 2023, exactly one year before this season’s game. O’Rourk (four goals), Playsted (three) and Della Rocco (two) each scored multiple times. Della Rocco also provided three assists. The Bonnies were victorious the last time these programs met at the Marra Athletic Complex on February 22, 2022, 13-12.
“We have to account for Jake Rosa offensively, as he is a proven point producer and they have a proven history with goaltenders, which I would expect to continue,” Whitley added. “We’ve spent a lot of time shooting this week to make sure we convert the opportunities that hopefully our offense will create.
A fifth-year senior, Rosa was First Team All-Conference in the MAAC, the Bonnies’ former conference, in 2022. Last season, he ranked second on his team with 21 goals, 11 assists and 32 points behind the since-departed Sean. Westley, currently of the Las Vegas Desert Dogs of the NLL. Sophomore goalie Cristofero Cucciuffo returns after earning A10 All-Rookie honors following his first campaign in which he posted a .470 save percentage.
After a day off on Monday, Bellarmine is right back in the thick of things in a battle with Ohio State (1-0) on Tuesday. The programs met for 11 consecutive seasons from 2007-2014 as members of the GWLL and ECAC and as non-conference foes from 2015-2017 after the Big Ten began sponsoring lacrosse. The Knights have tasted victory just once against the Buckeyes, a 14-13 overtime victory in the 2010 season finale at Ohio Stadium. Keaton Ohara had the game winner for BU.
The Buckeyes now call the 2,100-seat Ohio State Lacrosse Stadium home.
The Buckeyes are listed at No. 22 in the USILA poll and received votes in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll.
“This will be an exciting opportunity to compete against a quality, nationally recognized Big Ten opponent,” Whitley said. “Ohio State is a great defensive unit that I would expect to be at or near the top of the top defensive categories when the season is over. We’re going to have to play a very disciplined offense and make our shots as they come.”
Buckeyes junior goalie Henry Blake saw his first career action last week in OSU’s 11-8 win over Utah and stopped 10 of 18 shots on goal (.556 save percentage). Sophomore Cullen Brown and fifth-year Marcus Hudgins are OSU’s top returning linebackers. Brown had a career-high five tackles against Utah, while Hudgins caused a pair of turnovers.
“OSU has a lot of new faces on offense, but Coach Myers always puts together an extremely athletic and organized group,” Whitley added. “We’re certainly familiar with Gannon Mathews from his time at Cleveland State and have a ton of respect for what he’s capable of. This will be a tall order for our team, but our guys are excited to get a national power and I. expect us to play extremely hard.”
Now a junior at OSU, Matthews started every game for Cleveland State in 2022 and 2023, averaging 3.1 points per game. He recorded a game-high six points against the Utes. Junior Ed Shean and sophomore Matt Caputo are Ohio State’s leading returning hitters. Shean led the Buckeyes with 27 goals last season, while Caputo tied for fourth with 15. They each scored a goal in the opener.
Matthews and the Buckeyes will face his former team, Cleveland State, on Saturday before the Knights visit on Tuesday.
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